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Astar's recipes - Peaches, plums and nectarines - 4 March

I wanted to talk about planting fruit trees, but it's the wrong time of year.  Don't worry though - we will talk about fruit tree planting in the winter. However; if you love these succulently sweet fruits as I do, and can get your hands on a cheap supply, then here are some great recipes.

Indian Plum Chutney

1 kg plums cut in half and stones removed
250g fat raisins
60g peeled and sliced garlic
60g fresh ginger, julienned
1 pkt blanched almond slivers
60g fresh red chillies, deseeded and thinly chopped
60g mustard seeds
560g muscovado sugar
800ml white wine vinegar

When I found this recipe, my immediate though was - forget it! 24 hours covered in the oven at 140c stirring every few hours was beyond the call of culinary duty. Up all night and day for chutney - do I look stupid? However I did have time and really it wasn't that hard and it was well worth the effort. This has to be the most wonderful chutney and each year when the plums come ready it has become a bit of a ritual in our home.

This origin of this recipe goes way back in history and the story goes something like this.

When women lived communally, and when someone went into labour around full harvest time, it was the right time for making jams, pickles and chutney. In their knowing that birth could take hours, the pot went on to start chutney.

Birth must have taken a good 24 hours because this is how long this takes to make.

Basically what you do is put all the ingredients into a roasting dish - it would have been the pot way back. With each contraction - which must have been at long intervals - someone got up and stirred the pot.

As birth got near, then there would have been more movement from the females gathered around. 

At birth on the 24th hour, the chutney was ready for storage, but kept 3 to 6 months - probably time enough for the baby to survive - before being consumed.

Sort of a toast to the baby's head, as they say.

Plum, Peach and Nectarine Chutney

Makes 4 x 450gm jars

1kg combined plums, peaches, nectarines stones removed and roughly chopped
300g apples - chopped
300g red onions - peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 heaped tsp each of the following:
- Ground cinnamon
- Allspice
- Cloves
- Ginger
- Chilli flakes
600ml apple cider vinegar
500g brown sugar
Freshly ground black pepper

- Into a very large heavy based pot add all ingredients and mix constantly until boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer uncovered around 1 hour or until thick and like jam.
- Remove let slightly cool before bottling and sealing.
- Store in a dark cool place several months before serving.

Peach, Plum and Nectarine Hazelnut Dessert Square

1kg peaches, plums and nectarines - stones removed and chopped into bite sized pieces

For the topping:
1 pkt (70g) hazelnuts or almonds
75g brown sugar
50g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
25g butter - melted

For the cake
225g soft butter
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
150g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
75g hazel nuts or almonds
Pinch salt
180g sour cream (light)

- Pre heat oven to 160 fan bake or 180c
- Line a swiss roll baking tin or similar with baking paper.
- Brown in the oven to toast the hazel nuts or almonds. 
- Let cool.

To make cake topping
- Roughly chop and place in a bowl with the brown sugar, plain flour, cinnamon.
- Add melted butter and stir until mix clumps together - set aside.

To make the cake
- Whizz the remaining nuts in a food processor until finely ground - or use a coffee grinder.
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time.
- Use a large spoon and fold in flour and baking powder, ground nuts and salt.
- Spread into the base of prepared tin.
- Top with fruit.
- Top with crumble.
- Bake around 1 hour or until golden and brown.

Plum Sauce

Makes up 2 x 400ml bottles

You will need a food processor with a metal chopping blade.

1 kg plums washed and stones removed
1 red onion peeled and chopped
1/4 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup malt vinegar

12 pepper corns
6 whole allspice
1 fresh bay leaf

- Use food processor to chop up onions - remove to a pot
- Repeat with the plums - remove to pot
- Add water, sugar, salt and vinegar.
- Put spices and bay leaf into a small square of muslin. 
- Tie off and add to pot.
- Bring to simmer and cook 30 - 40 minutes until thick.
- Remove spice bag.
- Let cool slightly before pouring into clean bottles.
- Sauce is best left several weeks before using.